City Smarts

Urban Planning Goes Green




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Early American developers of Washington, D.C., and Savannah, Georgia, strived to recreate the plans of European cities that offered plenty of public squares and parks. Subsequent high-rise apartments in most other U.S. cities that followed lacked certain elements of neighborhood cohesion, as documented in Zane Miller’s book The Urbanization of Modern America. In Boston, Baltimore, New York City and elsewhere, waterfront revitalizations launched in the 1980s helped improve conditions, making use of nature-oriented ideas that are still trending upward.

Urban Hub describes how regions like Silicon Valley, in California, and Boston’s Route 128 corridor continue to enjoy mutually beneficial relationships with Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. The concept promotes pedestrianization programs and incentives that increase bike-friendliness, multimodal public transportation such as people-mover sidewalks and car sharing, plus off-hour, no-driving and park-and-ride policies. Join the social media conversation at Urban-Hub.com.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently released updated standards on how state agencies should measure mass transit, biking and walking volumes (EverybodyWalk.org). States will assess impacts on carbon emissions by tracking walkers, bikers and transit users instead of just comparing rush-hour travel times to free-flowing traffic conditions, which favors highway spending alone.

The Big Jump Project at PeopleForBikes.org rates areas for bike friendliness and taps ideas aimed to increase biking networks. To date, they cover Austin, Texas; Baltimore; Fort Collins, Colorado; Los Angeles; Memphis, Tennessee; New Orleans; New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; Portland, Oregon; and Tucson.

The nonprofit Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia, encompassing 400 businesses and organizations, is pioneering a Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) retrofit program. The city water department is collaborating on Green City Clean Water’s plan to meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency clean water regulations and foster rain gardens, green roofs and porous pavements.

“We help engineer nature back into cities,” says Anna Shipp, interim executive director and GSI manager. “Socially responsible, replicable and environmentally conscious initiatives and policies catalyze local economies and benefit water, air, aesthetics and people’s emotions.”


This article appears in the August 2017 issue of Natural Awakenings.

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